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Jo Chiang / Courtesy of Jo Chiang

The senior theater thesis festival in playwriting and solo performance showcased the work of eight graduating seniors.

In the crowded Minor Latham Playhouse, the lights dimmed on 10 actors dressed in black, sitting under white spotlights before reading.

Senior Theses in Solo Performances began the festival. The three solo performances were conducted by Natasja Naarendorp, GS ’18, Elisabeth Siegel, GS/JTS ’18, and Brian Patrick White, CC ’18 on Friday and Saturday. Friday night featured performances of Christine Aucoin’s “Asterisk" and Phil Anastassiou’s, CC ’18, “you are what eats you.” On Saturday afternoon, three more plays were read: Sarah Billings’ (BC ’18) “The Egg of a Cockerel, Sat on by a Toad,” then Andy Jo’s (BC ’18) “bcc,” and Antonia Georgieva’s (CC ’18) “Muse,” each of which ran for an hour.

The Egg of a Cockerel, Sat on by a Toad

Billings’ expansive, medieval-based play took advantage of the nine-person cast. Spoken in modified old English, the play was based on a decaying Camelot and seamlessly created a world for the viewer to jump into. The viewer became immersed in the fantasy land as they watched a fish king disintegrate into bones and XXX slay a giant beast.

The play weaved together three storylines of healing King Arthur’s wound, Camelot knight Sir Gawain’s journey, and a witch’s journey to help others. It allowed room for the actors to shine in creating accents and exaggerated characters—the most notable performances came from Harrison Gale, BC ’20, as Morgana le Fay, and Adam Obedian, CC ’19, as Arthur Pendragon. Although the play’s climax—the slaying of the giant beast to reveal a litter of puppies inside of him—did not have the desired dramatic payoff, it was ambitious.

bcc:

Taking place in a science fiction setting in which humans are sent to “facilities” to go through physical modifications, Jo’s play focused on human qualities and relationships in an obscure setting. Throughout the play, the setting became more and more defined and apparent to the viewer. The stage directions were inventive and used loosely to make suggestions. With seven total characters, the play focused on one girl’s experience in a physical modification facility, described whimsically as a “spa.”

One bright moment in the play took the form of a pseudo-talk show, in which a surgeon explains the physical modifications being made to the body. For the audience, it was an enlightening and clever way to shape a larger world for the play.

The writing was fresh and moved quickly. Despite being a reading, not a performance, the play blossomed in the mind. Its cyclical nature saw it begin and end in a treatment waiting room, yet the ending was surprising and fresh for the viewer.

Muse

Centered on Pablo Picasso’s affair with the “Weeping Woman” Dora Maar, the play ambitiously took place over the span of the 1930s to the 1990s, jumping through time to weave a cohesive story. While the play begins with the rivalry between Dora Maar’s photography and Picasso’s painting, Maar eventually becomes Picasso’s short-lived muse and spends the rest of her life trying to move past her affair with the artist. As the play deals with Picasso’s careless, self-indulgent actions with other women, it becomes clear that it is attempting a feminist message of what Picasso stole from women.

However, the message became difficult to swallow. The writing was heavy-handed and clunky in the actors voices (but they did their best). The play seemed to fold in on itself voyeuristically, looking into itself for self-indulgence.

However, the mastery of the play was the support of the chorus in creating illusions across the stage.

It used echoes and noise in order to create interesting auditory moments of conceptualizing the play differently than expected.

This year’s senior thesis readings were delightful to watch unfold in front of the audience. The plays each successfully created their own worlds for audience members to immerse themselves in for an hour at a time.

kathleen.drake@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

Senior theses Senior theater thesis festival
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